Category Archives: PC Security

Posts about antivirus, antimalware, firewalls and other security tools for Windows

Disable Crazy Sounds And Fix Other Annoyances In Avast! Antivirus

Avast is one of the better anti-malware apps available for Windows, but it’s not without its flaws. Thankfully you can rid the program of its annoyances with some easy steps.

Enable automatic program updates

Screenshot avast!_Free_Antivirus_2013-05-03_14-14-02

Avast! will automatically download new virus definitions in the background, but only alert you of program updates by default. Program updates often fix bugs and close security holes, hence should be installed automatically and as soon as possible. To enable it, go to the Updates section in Settings, and choose Automatic update under Program.

Screenshot Settings_2013-05-03_14-14-37

These updates require restarting of your PC, but that shouldn’t be a problem as they are very infrequent.

Disable all sounds

Avast includes a bizarre array of voice alerts that go off every time it successfully or unsuccessfully completes an action, which include anything from updating itself to catching a malware to blocking an infected website. Almost everyone finds them annoying and so will you. To mute Avast, go to Settings > Sounds and uncheck the top option that says Enable avast! sounds.

Screenshot Settings_2013-05-03_14-15-53

Disable all or some of the annoying notifications

Like most anti-malware apps, Avast! displays different notifications/popups for different actions. While not as startling as the sounds, most of these are still very distracting. To banish all Avast notifications forever, turn on Silent/Gaming Mode from the Settings page.

Screenshot Settings_2013-05-03_14-17-53

This will even take care of the sounds if you haven’t turned them off already. However, Silent Mode is not recommended, because it will hide some of the more important notifications. To remove just the useless notifications, go to Settings > Popups, and set the time duration for Info and Update popups (the first two options) to 0.

Screenshot Settings_2013-05-03_14-18-18

You will want to know about warnings and alerts (the next two options), so don’t set their duration to 0. Yes, this is basically a hack to keep the unimportant popups from showing up at all. You can go around disabling different notifications from different areas of the Avast interface – update notifications from the Updates window, notifications for the eight different shields (!) from their own obscure Settings pages (!!) – but that’s an unnecessarily complex process.

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The best security apps are like ninjas, working effectively in the background and staying out of your way most of the time. Avast gets the first part right, and with the above steps, you can make it follow the second part as well.

2 Reasons Why You Might Want To Ditch MS Security Essentials, And Why Shouldn’t

mse Combined with a capable firewall, Microsoft Security Essentials is currently the best and most hassle-free solution available for Windows. If you don’t agree with me, one of us is a monkeynut.

However, it has a few quirks (two, to be specific) that may drive you to using another security tool (a cracked Kaspersky or Norton, maybe?). So we’ll see what these two quirks are, and why you should rather ignore them and keep using this awesome tool.

#1 Revoltingly long first update

Microsoft Security Essentials takes a ridiculous amount of time to update for the first time (just after you install it). On a slow connection, it can be as long as an hour or more! Since future updates are all automatic and silent, this is likely the only time you’re gonna notice the update, and naturally you feel pissed off. People assume it’s always gonna take that long to update (which would be outrageous), and uninstall it without thinking twice. This is not true. The subsequent updates are small and fast as any other antimalware program. So why the gigantic first update? Lets see.

You must have noticed that the MSE installer is surprisingly small (about 8 MB) as compared to other antimalware tools. However, this is because the installer simply installs the core MSE program. Absolutely nothing that’ll protect your computer – the scanner, real-time engine and the malware definitions – come with this installer. After MSE is installed, it downloads and adds these components during the first update. Hence the huge, long update. The solution is just to be patient the first time.

Also, you can simply minimize or close the MSE window when its updating without stopping the update itself, and let it do its job.

#2 Revoltingly long time to remove malware

If you’ve ever been in a situation where MSE detects anything over 10 infections on an external drive or something, you must be knowing it takes just too much time to wipe those out. Most other antimalware that I’ve used suspend/quarantine/kill malware in a matter of seconds. But MSE will often take more than just a few minutes to get the task done. Sometimes it can take upto 20 minutes, or might pretend to just plain hang (while it clearly hasn’t). This can lead you to falsely assume that MSE can’t remove malware effectively.

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about it. For now. Remember that MSE is still very young (not even a year old, to be exact) and the upcoming version 2 might very well take care of this issue. For the time being, just put MSE in the background, leave it to do its job, and get back to your own work. Be assured that it will remove the malware it detects, no matter how long.

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MSE is a really, really good security product that doesn’t deserve to be ditched for these minor quirks. If you’re currently paying for your PC security, you should seriously stop now and get MSE instead. Lifehacker tries to explain why.

Immunet Adds a Layer of Protection To Your Social Web

Immunet Logo

With the social networks Twitter and Facebook growing like wildfire, especially the latter, it’s inevitable that the bad guys will target them to spread malware across the Internet. Hackers misuse the social hubs’ ability to create chain reactions to spread their malware with minimum effort. Here’s how – they somehow discover and hack an account with a poor password (a lot of people use really stupid passwords). Now that the account is compromised, they use it as a centre and send some malicious code, hidden beneath a cute looking dog or some scary warning, to the account’s friends. A couple of recipients fall for this trick and their accounts are immediately compromised. This goes on, and soon the hackers have their own virtual botnet of malware retching accounts.

Immunet aims to counter these growing attacks from social networks by pulling in realtime updates from the large community of other Immunet users. It works pretty much the same way as the previously mentioned Panda Cloud Antivirus, albeit with one remarkable difference – Immunet can be used both as a primary or secondary antivirus. That is, you can use Immunet as your only antivirus, and you can also use it along with your current antivirus. Immunet, unlike other antivirus tools, doesn’t conflict with rival products.

Using Immunet as a secondary antivirus has its own benefits. Lets say your primary antivirus catches a virus on your computer, but Immunet doesn’t. However Immunet, being compatible with the antivirus, will immediately log that virus in its own database, which will then be delivered to all other Immunet users. Neat!

As with Panda, you need an account to get started (you can use your Facebook account). It’s pretty light on system resources, and I’d recommend you to use it side-by-side with your current antivirus, as it’s still very beta and not a full-blown security solution.

Block spyware, adware, and bad sites with SpywareBlaster

SpywareBlaster is a useful security tool for Windows, designed to block all forms of malware. The software maintains a regularly updated blacklist of ActiveX spyware, adware, dialers, browser hijackers and prevents them from being installed on your PC. SpywareBlaster also protects you from privacy-invading tracking ads and malware infested websites.

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SpywareBlaster packs in some additional useful features as well, like

  • configuration options and custom blocking in Internet Explorer
  • System Snapshot, which can reset browser and important system settings after a malware attack

Easy as it is to use, SpywareBlaster lacks the power of a traditional anti-spyware – it doesn’t have a scanning tool which can clean already infected systems. However, it can be used alongside any anti-spyware, as it doesn’t run in the background, thereby ruling out possibilities of confliction.

SpywareBlaster is free to use, but you can pay a small fee to enable automatic updates (you can still update manually for free). The program runs on Windows 7 / Vista / XP / 2000. It supports Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and other Mozilla based browsers.

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